Having stayed at the JW Marriott in Phuket, Thailand (one of our favorite hotels), we decided that the JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort in Buenaventura would be a good bet for a family vacation. Boy, were we wrong. Nearly everything was a disappointment from the moment we arrived.
As we typically do before going to a hotel with our kids, we contact the hotel prior to arrival to ensure that things like cribs and extra beds were set up. Since there was no email address for the hotel, we contacted them on Facebook. The hotel was quite responsive and got back to us within the same day. The assured us that we had received a great upgrade as a result of our Marriott Gold status and there would be a crib in our room.
After arriving at the hotel from our three plus hour drive from Panama City, you can imagine that everyone was antsy to get out of the car and settle in our room. Unfortunately, that assurance from social media was never transmitted to the front desk, so our room was not ready. After some time working with the front desk manager, we were able to find a room that had enough room for a crib and an extra bed, but it was not the promised upgrade.
The room was quite large when compared to standard hotel rooms and it was well equipped with everything you would expect to find in a luxury hotel. It had a nice little balcony which was great for feeding the kids and keeping the mess out of the room.
The overall property was simply OK and did not really look like the pictures on their website. The beach was a good 10 minute walk from the hotel despite the website advertising it as a beachfront hotel. There was one pool at the hotel that wrapped around an island in the middle with a swim up bar.
The hotel had its own private beach but it is separated from the hotel rooms by a community of vacation bungalows. In the beach area there was a well stocked kids club, a restaurant, and a number of different pools. On the actual beach the hotel supplies beach chairs and umbrellas but the service was subpar. It took ages to get a towel or a drink even after placing an order with any of the staff roving around aimlessly. It even took a day to have a pile of dog doo removed from the kids play area next to the pool.
TLD;R on the JW Marriott Buenaventura:
It is an OK hotel for the price we paid $180 + tax, but it was a huge dissapointment for what we expected. The property is nothing special, the beach was not visible or even close to the hotel and the service was quite substandard. If you already happen to be in Panama and need somewhere to go on the beach, you might want to consider some of the other beachfront properties. Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistake we made and fly from California to go to this hotel.